Move your Triangle – Make Magic!

Move your Triangle – Make Magic!

Move Your Triangle…Make Magic!


If you were to get $25000 a year being a teacher or earn $40,000 a year to be a toll-booth operator, what work would you choose? Or being an entrepreneur earning less instead of being a better paid office help doing exactly as your boss instructs, what would you choose? My guess is that you would choose the first option in both cases, right? Now, I am not even remotely suggesting that any profession is less valuable than any other profession. Each profession has its own significance.


However, psychologists agree that for any work to be satisfying and meaningful to a person, it should have equal and reasonable proportion of three basic qualities: autonomy, complexity and a positive connection between effort and reward. Any work which fulfills these three criteria is considered meaningful by the subconscious mind. Each of these parameters are spread across a spectrum from ‘not present at all’ to ‘annoyingly present’.


Visualize a triangle with these three parameters as its corners and the meaningful work falls on that sweet little circle in the middle of the triangle.


Research has found that we tend to procrastinate tasks outside this circle and closer to any one of the three corners of the ‘motivation’ triangle. The closer you get into the circle, the more motivating the task becomes. Think of a task you are procrastinating and try this test out…is it too complex or too mundane? Does it involve excessive reporting with no room for autonomy? Or does it bring such independence that you are left all alone with your task? Finally, does it demand too much effort for too little gain?


I know some of you are protesting to this theory already! And that’s precisely the point, you see. Where your task fits into the triangle is a notion of your own imagination. And as soon as you establish a mindset that each of these corners (of the triangle) are movable, you win the key to get motivated in any task. Not clear?


Do I see you wondering how? Well, for starts, the edges of this triangle are set by the limits of your own imagination. Let me explain…


Pick one task you have been procrastinating for a while. Now rank on a scale of 1- 10 where 1 = too weak and 10 = too strong, where THIS task falls on the three criteria of autonomy, complexity and Effort-v/s-rewards scale. Simply use your gutfeel to determine the scores. I can bet it must not be in the midpoint of this triangle – infact farthest from any one corner !! Am i right?


You can vary the degree of complexity by either adding more challenges or chunking down to smaller tasks. Move the autonomy slider up or down by teaming in others if you think you are isolated or alternatively, pick smaller tasks that are within your control alone to increase autonomy. Delegate or automate tasks that demand more efforts than rewards or club tasks to increase the reward. 


So now, if you have a team member not excited enough to do a task…take few moments to ponder over which of these three parameters could be moved closer/ farther for them? could we alter the efforts v/s rewards a bit? or perhaps make it less complex? or just get them to work with another team mate to make them feel less isolated?


For me, preparing daily work reports was immensely boring. Interestingly I noticed that while it fitted well on the ‘autonomy’ and ‘complexity’ scale, this task scored just 2 on the effort-to-reward scale. I worked out a formula-driven excel sheet with drop down menu, most of which were auto-filled leaving just few items for manual input. This reduced the efforts and eliminated procrastination.


Move your triangle…make magic !!

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